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Death Becomes Them: The Gang Fights the Grim Reaper on "Torchwood"

So Owen is dead? Or is he?

Rather than paint themselves into a corner with the untimely death of team member Owen Harper (Burn Gorman), the producers of Torchwood have decided to use the storyline to further develop Owen's character while making some, well, drastic life changes for the team's resident doctor. I was happy to see that it doesn't appear that Owen will be going anywhere (any time soon, anyway) and will be sticking around at the Hub for a while longer.

This week's episode of Torchwood ("Dead Man Walking") was extremely Owen-centric, yet it gave all of the team members their own individual moment to shine: whether it was Tosh's attempt to come clean to Owen, Jack's acknowledgment of his own battle with Death, or Gwen's tear-filled conversation with fiancé Rhys, each of them had a moment that advanced their characters, played up their strengths and/or flaws, and reminded us that a team is only as strong as its individuals.

After his shooting in last week's episode ("Reset"), Owen seemed destined for a quick autopsy and burial (or suspended animation at Torchwood's HQ). Instead, he was brought back to life using the resurrection glove. Or, should I have another go at clarifying that: A resurrection glove. ("These things do tend to come in pairs," says Ianto.) Rather than let his teammate go into the good night before his time, Jack hunts down the mate of the resurrection glove that beset the team last season during the Suzie affair and finds it, curiously, in an abandoned church that a nest of Weevils have been using as a squat.

What happens next definitely surprised me. Jack uses the glove to revive Owen (and uses the opportunity rather characteristically to ask for the code to the alien morgue, which only Owen knows) but he stays a live well after the two-minute limit. Hmmm, much like Suzie did last season when Gwen used the glove to bring her back to life. Except Suzie was sapping energy from Gwen to remain animated while Owen was absorbing energy from... somewhere else.

That somewhere else turns out to be Death himself, who is using Owen's state to enter the world of the living. If he manages to kill thirteen people, Death will gain a foothold on our world and begin to kill everyone. Martha, meanwhile, gets attacked by the glove in a nifty sequence and is aged prematurely into an 80-year-old woman; it's the perfect distraction for Death to move through Owen's animated corpse and escape into the night. Owen, for his part, must face down Death on his own and refuse to be conquered. It's the fight of his life but one, Jack claims, Owen will eventually lose. Death doesn't relinquish its hold on anyone, not forever.

I was hoping that Toshiko wouldn't have retracted her admission of love to Owen during his supposed two-minute resurrection; she was grieving, as Owen claimed, but it didn't lessen the fact that she's been in love with the buffoon for years and has suffered her unrequited love with a quiet stoicism and and a sad air of resignation. I wanted Tosh to finally get a spine and not apologize for her feelings for a change. Sadly, she lets Owen blow her off and never gets to clarify what she meant.

As for Martha, I really do like having her as part of the Torchwood gang. She adds a freshness of spirit and purpose and fits in beautifully with this team of misfits and outcasts; additionally, it lends her a seriousness and grim determination that she was lacking during her tenure with the Doctor.

We also really got a sense of how Owen's death affected immortal Jack. Cursed with immortality, he is doomed to watch everyone he cares about die before his eyes. His team is no exception: he's forced to send every one of them to certain death while he stands apart from the fray, unable to die, unable to change. His scene with Owen in the jail cell (disgusting as it was for the projectile vomiting) was touching as he admitted that he didn't revive Owen to get that code but to offer him strength for what was coming, for the darkness, and what came next.

As for what comes next now for the reanimated Owen, we'll have to wait to find out. But it definitely seems like Owen, a trained doctor, wants to make up for the deaths of twelve people on his watch during what we'll call Deathgate. Will Jack allow him to be sidetracked from their primary mission? Find out next week.

Next week on Torchwood ("A Day in the Death"), Owen's attempt to find absolution leads him on a crash course with a deadly alien artifact.


I'm really, really happy that Owen is still on the show. It would not be the same without him.

I'm also happy that, looking at next week's preview, they're not letting this "he's alive but dead" thing go without some further exploration and that it's not just "Oh, goodie! Owen's back!" with things proceeding as normal. It will be interesting to see what happens to him over the next few episodes.

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